Copyright © 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Bestseller Regurgitates Dutch Cheese.
Blue Monday by Arnon Grunberg (Translated by Arnold and Erica Pomerans)
Farrar Straus Giroux pp278
"She started by jerking me off. I had been with a lot of them by now, but they all ended up jerking you off as if they were rinsing out glasses. I have never come across one who could do it as well as I could myself. Maybe I ought to make a living at it."
Arnon Grunberg has! The novel Blue Monday, in a masturbatory style filled with loathing, conjures up the image of the sweaty palms and sticky fingers of an adolescent boy let loose in the bordellodistrict of modern Amsterdam. This is a work that should have been scrawled on a urinal wall along with shorter pieces by scribes with the same prurient interest and primitive voice. Any discerning audience in such a locale would soon give up reading to attend to the more erudite pursuit of voiding the bladder.
In the original Dutch version, 70,000 people paid money to read such lines as "The world is full of ugly people, but I have never seen anyone as ugly as those women who wanted to become Jewish. If you ask me, they must have thought that once you are Jewish it doesn't matter if you are ugly. If I'd had an Uzi, I would have shot them all out of pity. For aesthetic reasons, too of course." Fortunately no such a weapon finds itself in the hands of this Jewish author's character. But someone misguidedly gave Grunberg a pen.
In spite of the cover notes there is nothing "clever" about this book. The style is puerile, the content has all the appeal of a inept punk rocker puking out some retching verbiage in the hope that sputum will pass for recognizable art. A reader contemplating this tome should be aware that the author says "Stuff kept coming into my mouth, like a sort of belch. I kept swallowing it down, but it kept coming back, and finally I spat it out on the stage." Would that Grunberg's alter ego herein portrayed had a stronger gullet and he a weaker scribing hand! If you feel you would like to read this volume, enjoy - 70,000 copies exist in Dutch. Personally I feel this was a waste of the translator's talent and Abby Kagan's cover design. As for content, I am too much of an environmentalist not to bemoan this particular misuse of trees.
Alan Egerton Ball
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